Greek Council president speaks out

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Greek Council president speaks out – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Before she walked into the Feb. 20 ASLMU Senate meeting, Greek Council President Lauren Coons was not spending her time rehearsing the impeachment complaint against then-ASLMU President Bryan Ruiz she would be submitting. Instead, the junior entrepreneurship major was in class.

“Trying to sit through class, knowing that I would be making this huge movement, this splash in the community … I was nervous,” Coons said of the time prior to the hearing. “I still can’t believe that I did it, to be honest.”

“It,” as first reported by the Loyolan online on Feb. 17 (“Greek Life preparing impeachment complaint against ASLMU president”), was the submission of the first impeachment complaint filed against a sitting ASLMU president in at least 15 years, according to Director of Student Leadership and Development (SLD) Andrea Niemi.

When Coons’ class ended and she entered the meeting, she found herself speaking to an audience of over 100 students, all collected to watch history being made.

“You don’t speak in front of 100-plus people every day,” Coons said of her anxiety in the moment. “Nor do you go against the current every day.”

The genesis of the complaint

After being elected to the presidency of Greek Council in December, Coons spent much of her time and energy post-recruitment season researching the events of an alleged Feb. 5 on-campus meeting of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), the off-campus, unrecognized fraternity of which Ruiz was formerly the president and is currently a member. According to Coons’ complaint, the meeting was an SAE alumni night held in a Foley Annex classroom. Sanctions received due to this meeting ultimately led to Ruiz’s removal by the University, according to a post on Ruiz’s personal blog on Tuesday.

According to Coons, rumors of the meeting first surfaced at a Greek leadership summit. As chapter presidents expressed frustration that issues with SAE were not resolved when they first surfaced last fall (as reported in the Nov. 12 Loyolan article “Unofficial fraternity colonizes off-campus”), Coons said she felt “a little bit” of a personal obligation as Greek Council president to take charge of the process.

“I think the presidents took it personally that nothing had been done, and that SAE chose not to listen,” Coons said. “I had full support from them from the beginning. So this was not something just coming from me. … I made sure I was representing the Greek community.”

Despite rumors to the contrary, Coons said the complaint was entirely student-motivated, with no interference from the University. “I know there’s been a lot of speculation and some wisecracks made about the administration and puppeteers,” she said. “But I wrote [the complaint] myself.”

‘It seemed to deeply impact her’

All this preparation led Coons to stand in front of the Senate to present the eight-page complaint. Rather than merely read the text, Coons said she aimed to “engage” the students through an emotional presentation. This emotion led to a moment where Coons began to cry.”

“My initial reaction to her emotion was certainly, from a student leadership standpoint, to see how passionate she was about what she was speaking about,” Niemi said of Coons’ tears. “It seemed to deeply impact her.”

Greek Life Program Coordinator Dan Faill agreed. “Yes, she got emotional,” he said to the Loyolan after the meeting. “However, given the level of work and investment she had with the matter, I am proud of how well she did.”

“It was a long week. A lot of work went into it,” Coons said. “I think part of it was stress coming out finally.”

A student body divided

After the meeting concluded, Coons’ complaint quickly and sharply divided LMU’s student body, as comments on both ASLMU’s and the Loyolan’s Facebook pages quickly escalated into full-scale debates about the validity of the charges

“It sucks,” Coons said. “We’re a very small community, and we shouldn’t be so divided. I hate that it came off as the Greek community versus ASLMU.”

Still, she noted, “It’s interesting to see how passionate students get. … Students have a voice. Clearly, they do. As much as it sucks that they’re divided, it’s kind of cool to see that happen, to see how students react and get involved with this stuff. They’re passionate.”

‘Power struggle’?

However, one of Coons’ regrets about the division in the student body is how the saga has been perceived as a fight over power. “I think this got heated really quickly, and I kind of forgot, too, that we are students and we are one community,” she said. “I wish it wasn’t depicted as such a power struggle or a battle against these two communities, because we’re one community.”

One person who firmly believes that it was a battle is former ASLMU Senator and sophomore finance major Roy Dilekoglu. “It’s one big power struggle. They like to argue that ‘one in four people are Greek life.’ Well, three in four people aren’t Greek life,” he said. “[My] perspective … is that it has nothing to do with ASLMU. It’s just the power.”

However, Faill doesn’t believe that Coons had power in mind. “With Lauren, this has never been about power, even when she first brought it up,” Faill said. “This is and has always been about integrity and doing the right thing.”

Looking forward, looking back

The day after the meeting, Ruiz was removed from office. Because of this, the impeachment hearing Coons petitioned for was never held.

“I was a little angry, just because of how much work I put in,” Coons said of the University’s decision. “[But] it also was bittersweet. It was a lot of work, and for Bryan’s sake, that would have been terrible to drag it out for another three weeks with spring break. And on my end, it was a lot of work that I didn’t have to do.”

Ultimately, Coons said, it was time to move on. “I just kind of let it go. Book’s done. Chapter’s done,” she said.

While Ruiz is no longer president, SAE remains active off campus, something that Niemi said is still an issue for Greek Life. “My understanding is that there … are others that share the sentiment from an organizational standpoint,” she said. “And I can imagine that Greek Life will continue to have that as a subject of discussion internally.”

“SAE as an organization has some work to do. And we as an LMU Greek community hold our organizations to a high standard,” Coons said. She did allow for the possibility of SAE returning to campus during a future expansion process, however.

Looking back, Coons said that while she does have some regrets as to how things proceeded, she remains steadfast that her impeachment complaint was valid and glad she went through with the process.

“I’d do it differently,” Coons said. “I’m not sure how, but there are definitely changes that I would make.”

She then added, “But I would do it again.”

Caserio to assume role of ASLMU president

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan and co-written with Allison Croley. For original, please refer to: Caserio to assume role of ASLMU president – Los Angeles Loyolan.

As senior marketing major Bryan Ruiz’s era as ASLMU president ends, the LMU student body will have to look to former ASLMU Vice President and senior sociology major Vinnie Caserio, the new ASLMU president, as ASLMU pushes forward.

“There will be a lot of people with a lot of questions,” said Dan Faill, assistant director of Student Leadership and Development (SLD) and Greek Life adviser. “And my sincere hope is that Vinnie will be up to the task of conducting himself and [ASLMU] to the best of his ability.”

One of Caserio’s first tasks will be to refocus ASLMU as the voice of LMU’s student body. The impeachment complaint and subsequent unrelated removal of Ruiz has brought dispute not only between members of the organizations involved, but between other students as well. Status updates on both the ASLMU and Loyolan Facebook pages quickly filled with comments ranging from students arguing the validity of the impeachment complaint to whether the University should have removed Ruiz.

Senior political science major Sarah Palacios, ASLMU’s attorney general, told the Loyolan that Caserio’s ability to bring students together will be vital during this period of transition. “Vinnie was elected for a reason. He has this strength to unite people. It’s unparalleled,” she said.

Caserio’s time to unite is short, however. According to the ASLMU website, campaigns for the 2013-14 election are already undergoing approval, and platforms will be posted this Thursday, Feb. 28. Elections will be held from March 19-21, and results will be posted at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 21. Though the ASLMU president and vice president don’t officially transition until commencement, according to Director of SLD Andrea Niemi, this still only leaves Caserio with a few weeks before elections to seize the spotlight.

Still, according to Assistant Director of SLD and ASLMU Adviser Alexandra Froehlich, Caserio will make the most of the time he has. “One thing I’ve learned about Vinnie this entire year is that he will step up to the plate and try everything,” Froelich said.

Palacios was optimistic, saying, “[This] is about moving forward and about what Vinnie will continue to do.”

ASLMU Treasurer and junior mathematics major Anna Keathley agreed, saying, “Vinnie has a spirit that lights up a room, and Vinnie is the perfect person to support ASLMU and the rest of the student body through this process.”

The spring semester of ASLMU’s schedule is notable for March’s Collegefest, the annual spring concert that has in the past brought acts like The Bravery and Gym Class Heroes to LMU. Though ASLMU may be transitioning leaders as Collegefest rapidly approaches, Froehlich said she has faith the planning would proceed properly.

“One thing I’ve learned about ASLMU is while I’d love to pretend that the president and vice president do everything, that’s not the case,” Froehlich said. “Collegefest will still happen.”

Though a change in leadership at a crucial time can be intimidating, members of ASLMU have faith that things will progress as they should.“We’re a team, and we look forward to providing the students with great memories,” Palacios said of ASLMU going forward. “That’s really what we’re looking forward to.”

“You know, we might lose people here and there, I won’t lie,” Froehlich admitted. “But for the most part, they are an amazing group of people. They will keep going.”

Greek Week shifts focus to interfraternalism

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Greek Week shifts focus to interfraternalism.

Greek Week

Photo Credit: Leslie Irwin | Loyolan

Before this year’s Greek Week commenced, community anticipation for the upcoming celebration of Greek Life was struggling to overcome mixed feelings regarding changes to the week’s structure.

“In the beginning, everybody was pretty concerned,” said senior psychology major Lisa Flanigan, president of Kappa Alpha Theta. “For a while, when we didn’t have anything figured out and we didn’t really have ideas of how to make Greek Week work … it was a subject that didn’t really go over well.”

Junior political science major Michael Hanover, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, agreed, calling the community’s response “between negative and [mixed]” before the week began.

“The idea behind the changes … [was] building a certain level of respect that, according to some, has been absent in past years between organizations. I believe, wholly and truly, that the changes were motivated by the right sentiment,” said Hanover. “The reaction has fallen off from that complete level of positivity.”

“Change is never easy,” said Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Development and Greek Adviser Dan Faill. “But I truly feel it was the best move … and I was pleased at the overall reaction from chapters to combine into larger teams for Greek Week, an idea that was brought forward from chapter presidents at the fall Greek retreat.”

Said conglomeration has paired one fraternity, one sorority and one “multicultural chapter” in each team, according to Faill. This plan was met with enthusiasm from some individual organizations, especially Sigma Lambda Gamma, according to Chapter President Nina Garofalo, a senior English major.

“We felt we weren’t included in the camaraderie of Greek Week, and so [the new system] gives us an opportunity to make friends and not be so competitive about it,” Garofalo said. “We’re already so proud to wear our letters, so we don’t feel like we need to prove ourselves.”

This interfraternal pride was purposefully designed as one of the overarching goals of Greek Week, according to Co-Vice President of Greek Week Sean Daly, a senior communication studies and theatre arts double major.

In addition to the conglomerate teams, the other major change was the separation of Greek Week from Lip Sync and Stroll Off, according to Co-Vice President of Greek Week and junior psychology major Penney Azizi. Lip Sync and Stroll Off, once the culminating event of Greek Week, was moved to early September this year due to scheduling conflicts in booking Gersten Pavilion.

“Certainly, Lip Sync was a great way to cap it off, but was there anything that the Greek Week VPs could have done about that?” said Hanover. “According to what they’ve said, I don’t think so, and I trust them on that.”

Substituting for Lip Sync will be the All-Greek Masquerade Ball, a formal event on Saturday in Burns Back Court, where winners of the week will be announced.

Other changes included a redesigned football tournament with only one day instead of two, and a restructured obstacle course that involves more team members and a chariot race leg, according to multiple sources.

While final judgment on the week’s redesign has yet to be rendered, before it even began, individuals from within the community had disparate reactions to the week’s true meaning.

“I really appreciate all the work they’ve put into this Greek Week and making it more interfraternal, really trying to bridge those gaps,” Garofalo said.

“It’s all about being Greek, not necessarily about what letters you wear, and the community as a whole,” Azizi said, echoing Garofalo’s sentiments about inter-fraternalism.

Flanigan, however, emphasized personal chapters saying, “I think it’s positive, because you’ll still have your own pride for your own organization.” But, she added that through Greek Week, individual chapters would be “breaking down the barriers between different organizations.”

Hanover said in summary, “On the one hand, any … time of change brings about some strife from somewhere or another in the community. On the other side of it … to make big changes like that, you have to be bold to do that, and if you go there you’re gonna make some mistakes too. You can’t make big changes like that and expect that it’s gonna please everybody.”